Prayer: Why & How

The following is a letter from Sr. Ann Shields to members of Friends of Food for the Journey that we felt was important to share more broadly. If you would like to learn more about Friends of Food for the Journey, click here.


Have you been giving God some substantial time every day? If this has been a struggle, simply try spending a half hour in the morning reading Scriptures and bringing your needs before the Lord. Then pray the Morning Offering:

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins and for the intentions of all my relatives and friends and for the intentions of the Holy Father.”

Then, give God fifteen minutes in the evening, when you review the day. Repent where you need to, and then thank God for the blessings you received.

We receive blessings every day, but sometimes we are too deaf and blind to see and hear God’s action. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be more aware of the ways in which God answers prayer and accompanies you throughout the day. If you wish, keep a journal of the insights you receive, the passages in Scripture that really stand out to you, the decisions you make, the questions you have, the petitions you bring to the Lord, and whatever else is on your heart.

In addition to a daily examination, let’s take a moment right now to consider the past month: In what ways did you help yourself yield to God’s grace? How did you help yourself believe He accompanies you throughout the day, and that He knows your thoughts, desires, hopes, and fears? Did you talk to Him about them? Did you entrust your fears to Him, your worries, your hopes? I know that it can “feel” like you are talking into empty air, but you are not! Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten by God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Lk 12:6-7; emphasis mine).

If God, the almighty God, knows the number of each strand of hair on your head, then how much more does He surely know the joys and sorrows, the pain and fear that, at times, weigh you down? “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the KINGDOM” (Lk 12:32; emphasis mine).

Let that sink in a minute: God doesn’t just want you to get over the threshold of the kingdom; He wants to give us—you and me—the KINGDOM! You can trust Him. But to grow in trust, you have to spend time with Him: in personal prayer, in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and by going to Mass during the week, if possible.

Let me make one note here about making decisions to grow in your spiritual life. Make one, or at the most, two at a time. Then, make sure they have become a habit—and don’t get discouraged; this could take six months to a year—before you add any new decisions to your list. Finally, writing things down in a spiritual journal can help cement these decisions in your mind and your heart.

God loves you, and I pray that you may come to believe it—personally—for yourself and then for others. I want you to read slowly what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said a number of years ago in Germany on his radio program:


“God created each of us according to His will, and this will is our prime origin. It is not just a remote and general will, but a particular will for each one of us. However it may seem when viewed from the outside, no one exists solely by chance. Each one has been willed by God and has his own proper place in life.”

“There is, for each one, a meaning and a role in the universe, and our lives will be all the more replete and happy, the more we realize this meaning, the more we incorporate this will into our lives and are one with it.

“Hence there arises the next question: “What kind of will is this?” What concept does God see fulfilled in the human race? For one thing, we can say that He has his own design for each person; each one is something special, not merely one example of a product produced by the million. Each one is unique, never to be repeated and willed by God exactly as he is. That is why we say that God calls each of us by name—not just by a concept, but by a name that only this one individual knows and that belongs solely to him. For each one there is a special call. And only if we live attentively in conversation and dialogue with God can we know why He needs us in such an apparently insignificant position and why we are, precisely in that position, so immeasurably important. We need only recall that individuals who were apparently the most forgotten and insignificant in the world—a young woman in Nazareth, fishermen on the Lake of Genessaret—became immeasurably significant. It is not always so evident, yet God wants each of us, he needs each one of us, so that His world may become what He wants it to be”

[Co-Workers of the Truth (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1992), 222]


Look at what Jesus said to His disciples:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full. (Jn 15:9-11)

The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and thou in me that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them even as you love me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them thy name and I will make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them. (Jn 17:22-26)

If you are baptized, you are a child of God the Father and a disciple of Jesus Christ, and Jesus has promised many inexpressible blessings for those who clearly decide to follow Him. There DOES need to be a concrete decision on your part, in terms of accepting who you are—a son/daughter of the Father! God does not lie. He promises you the eternal kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more mourning, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death, for the old order will have passed away. “All will be made new” (see Rv 21:1-8)!

God desires to love us as the Son loves the Father, and as the Father loves the Son. We are drawn into that love. That is a key part of our inheritance: that we know, experience, and are drawn into the love between the Father and the Son. This is a key reason you want to repent of sin, so that you become a clear vessel to receive and give the love of God. It is incomprehensible to us in our limited human state, but if we follow Him now as closely as we can, cooperating with His grace, we will be changed more and more into His image and likeness. This is not just a holy idea! This is what God has in store for those who follow Him. Even as I write this, I know my words are totally inadequate to the reality of union with the SOURCE of all Love.

Hear, again, the words of Scripture—this is Jesus speaking to each one of us:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

These words reflect a depth of love we cannot comprehend. But, it is nevertheless true. Jesus wants to dwell with us! To make His home with us—with you! He literally wants a close, personal relationship with you! Are we worthy? No, but He makes us “worthy” by His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness, day in and day out.

Think about a couple of ways in your own life that you could evangelize yourself. I know that sounds strange, but there are times when we need to tell ourselves the truth of who we are and where we are going. We can so easily lose our way, but God will help us as we cry out to Him. Use the Scripture passages I have given you; reflect on them; apply them to yourself. Speak the truth day in and day out, because the Enemy seeks to rob you of the truth.

Some resources you might want to examine are:

  1. My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith, by Clarence Ensler. This was published by Ave Maria Press in 2010.
  2. Thirsting for Prayer, by Fr. Jacques Philippe. This was published by Scepter Publishers in 2014.

Both of these books deal in different ways with our spiritual life. They are very solid and can be very helpful!

As we enter more into the truth of who we are and who God is, so much of life’s journey begins to make sense. The day will come when you will be able to “give away” to others what you’re grasping more deeply, not just with the head, but with your heart.  Then you will be able to bring His light and His truth into the growing darkness around us. And that light, that truth, no one will be able to destroy.


[Featured Image Credit]

Sister Ann Shields

Sr. Ann Shields, SGL, is part of Renewal Ministries’ leadership team and a member of The Servants of God’s Love. She is an internationally noted speaker, the author of numerous books on Catholic spirituality, and the host of the popular daily radio program Food for the Journey. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI awarded Sr. Ann the Benemerenti Medal for service to the Church. The Catholic Library Association also awarded Sr. Ann the Aggiornamento Award, for her outstanding contribution to the renewal of parish and community life.

2 thoughts on “Prayer: Why & How

  1. Sr. Ann , I thank God for you and your ministries. You are a blessings to us all. May God continue to bless you all the days of your life. Blessings and love, Leilani

  2. Thank God for Sr Ann and her Food for the Journey Ministry! I am a daily receiver of Fr Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, daily reflections. (Meditations@cac.org) He provides a “forward to a friend” email of his reflections which I send to my friends. I will join Sr Ann’s ministry and contribute to it. I will forward her reflections to my friends also.

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